How to make Store apps on Windows relevant


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Nov 26, 2013
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This topic was also on the Microsoft Tribe forum on The Verge, but I would like to put it out here because I think it's an interesting thing to consider. I haven't found any credible statistics on the popularity of Modern apps on Windows, but since Microsoft itself has been pretty tight-lipped about it, and some of my friends are still on Windows 8.0 at the moment(!) meaning they have never visited the Store, I think Microsoft has some problems with the Windows Store it needs to address.

Imo, the biggest problem with Windows Store and Modern apps is that many people don?t even know it exists. Microsoft had made the biggest mistake ever in assuming that since everyone has a phone/tablet and use the device(s) respected app store, they would carry over the same mindset when using Windows. Which is completely, utterly wrong. I think they actually underestimated their legacy and the impact of their own product whose image and usage has been entrenched in the minds of generations of PC users.

So what can they do about this? This has been said time and time again, but it still cannot be stressed enough, since I don?t think Microsoft has been effective in this: guide the users, and actually showing how the App store is used and what it can be used for. How? Take a page from how game developers do it: with every new game/feature introduced, there?s a tutorial hidden in the form of a playable stage where only the mechanics/feature in question is needed.

To use an example from Windows, how about that built-in PDF reader that everyone needs? Just put it in the Store, and build an interactive tutorial right after the user finished setting up their Windows machine that guide the user, step by step, to download it. Open Store, search App, press Install, easy as pie. Make it so that only the Reader (or maybe another PDF reader from reputable source like Adobe) would appear in the search result during the tutorial; focus on steps and not choices.
For Windows 8 users for another example, tell them explicitly that the next beautiful update is in the Store, and guide them there step by step: Go to Start, Open Store, Press the Big, Bright Update button, just like that. I can almost see the statistics for Windows 8.1 in the consumer space double over night just by this simple action.

Even further, turn the Store search into a "web browser" of both Store and desktop apps of sort: even desktop programs, old or new, would be listed, as many of them as possible, and pressing download would take the users directly to the download page of the developers without ever leaving the Store app. Outrageous? Different? That is because Windows is a different beast, and choosing the best method for Windows, by Windows is much better than trying to just copy what everyone else out there is doing. I can?t imagine this to be very difficult, as even a news reader from some small dev on my phone has a built-in web browser for news sites (and more,) and actually Microsoft?s own news app has this feature as well, if I?m not mistaken.

Last but not least, curate the Store, Microsoft, seriously. Last I checked, I saw at least 3 paid games with similar pattern: Random Chinese name for dev, similar screenshots, and the words "Best Hidden Object game of 2014" in capital letters. I don?t even know how such obivously fake things could have passed the audit gate of the people at MS. That is not to mention all the dodgy games with blatantly deceitful screenshots and obvious cut-paste names like "Need For Asphalt: Speed Overdrive Carbon" (ugh.) This is just talking about games alone, imagine combining the trash from other categories. You have the money MS, hire a team of real people to check your Store, or at least look at it yourself periodically. You don't have to be totalitarian like Apple, but at least promote the good apps, take down the bad ones, figure out a good algorithm, go the distance.

If Microsoft is indeed serious about Universal apps and the possibility of the WinRT architecture, I think they really should start to think of the Store as an important service offered by Microsoft, and polish it as much as possible, instead of turning it into an app dump just for bragging rights.

So guys, what do you think? What else can MS do to help make Modern apps relevant?

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